”Hey Friends, I have achieved my PB. Can’t tell you how much happy I am”
If you are trespassing a running group after an event, you are likely to hear this type of conversation. You will be wondering what does that ‘PB’ means. But on hearing this, all the friends of the person who said that would start congratulating him on his PB. Let me tell you, PB means Personal Best and what the runner means is that in that event he achieved his Personal Best timing beating ‘himself’ one more time. Each PB is a celebration of its own. Moreover, in each event there will be many such celebrations.
Most of us start running either for health reasons or to keep fit. I started running to control my increasing cholesterol levels. It began with a normal 40 minutes walk, graduating to brisk walk and then jogging and running.
Initially running a distance of 3 km felt like a big achievement. Because to reach that distance I had to sacrifice certain pleasures like extended sleeping hours and late night TV viewing. In addition, there was some bodily pain in the initial stages. I always tell my mentee that to become a good runner the biggest distance you have to cross is the distance between your bed and your shoe rack. Once that distance is taken care of, you are off for further glory.
By further glory, I do not mean finishing at top in a race and reaching the podium. An increase in distance from 3 km to 5 km is further glory for me. An even more increase from 5k to 10k is ecstatic. (Have you noticed: I was writing 3 km to 5 km but when I graduated to a higher distance I started using runners’ lingo: 5k and 10k.).
To reach 10k, whom all I had to beat? No one in particular other than MYSELF. Now, I was my own competitor. A part of me asking the other part whether you can beat my 10k timing. Yes, I started to think about timing now! If my first 10k was finished in 1 hr 16 mins, the challenge now was to improve upon that.
However, it is not easy. Once you start thinking in terms of timing, the battle between body and mind begins. Running aimlessly and running with a focus are different. Then one day I managed to beat myself. Within a couple of months, I improved to 1 hr 05 mins and in the next event, I finished in 1:02:28.
Did you notice something there? Now I am talking in terms of seconds, not just hours and minutes. Gradually I am conquering the previous ‘me’. Now I was part of a running group where people were proudly talking about sub-one timing. Sub-one? What is that? Yes, sub-1:00:00. 10 km distance to run in less than one hour. There are hundreds of other runners who run sub-1 effortlessly; some of them in 50 mins, some in 40 mins and some even less. So where do I stand in this crowd?
No one cares or think in this way in running community except a few real top runners who compete for a podium finish. For me, if I could achieve 10k in 59:59 minutes, it is my own podium finish. I do not care if someone is running twice as fast as I am. I also know thousands of others are running twice as slow as myself. None of us is bothered about this.
Then a day dawns when I achieve that magic number: 00:58:27. I am on cloud nine. What was unthinkable a few months back was a reality now. Everyone congratulates me, even the guy who finished in 40 minutes. Someone who finished in 90 minutes looks at you with awe. You are a hero for him. All the training, all the efforts, the sweat and blood, everything is worth its weight in gold at this moment.
What next? Is this the end of it? No. The competitor from inside raises its head. “Only 10k? It is a child’s play buddy. Try running 21k is what tough men do. It is HALF MARATHON. Do you have guts to try that distance?”
Therefore, my competitive self takes up the challenge. I train hard and increase the distance slowly over a period. 10k becomes 12k, which becomes 15k soon and then 18k and one fine day I am ready for that BIG moment – 21k, nay, 21.1k to be precise. The result:
Congratulations Jayendra Soni, you have completed your Half Marathon at TWCM 2014 in 2:15:47.
Yea…. I have done it. Once more, I beat my competitor, who is MYSELF! The feeling is just unbelievable. The feeling of Ecstasy, joy, tears, high-fives, hugs, congratulations and a sense of achievement was Unbelievable. A year back, I was not even an athlete by any stretch of imagination. I was a couch potato. What kind of transformation I have achieved. I am a half-MARATHONER now. Wow!
Just then the jealous competitor from inside raises its head and challenges you, again. Ha! Half marathon is just HALF marathon. You have no right to call yourself a MARATHONER. For that, you have to run a Marathon distance of 42.2k. Do not fool yourself or me calling yourself a Marathoner. This is really a bad attitude on his part. However, ‘he’ is right too.
A fresh training program, a revised calendar, longer distances and more hours on the road is the new routine. I am not in a hurry. I tell my competitor to stop laughing as I attempt a few more half marathons and achieve better and better timing there. (A few more PBs). I stop eating junk foods; my diet is healthier and regular. Strength training is tougher now. And almost a year later, I beat ‘him’, the other me. 04:54:53 means a sub-5:00 and that too on first attempt at full Marathon is quite an achievement. I wickedly smile at him. At last, I am a MARATHONER. No one can deny me the title. Not even the inner ME!
For a few days until I celebrate under the influence of runner’s high, the competitor keeps quiet. Then during a quiet moment I hear a murmur, ‘ultra- marathon is where all the fun is’. I say, ‘shut up you jealous fellow’. However, the murmur stays in my mind.
And thus the life goes on, the running goes on.
The world record for FM is 02:02:57. I may (!) never achieve that. I may not even achieve the national record or for that matter a state record or even record of some of my colleagues. However, I am not running to beat them. They have their own competitors to fight and I have my own, which is, MYSELF. So, the race goes on. And the fun continues. Watch this space for my ‘ultra’ timing! And yeah, what happened to that dreaded high cholesterol level. In just six months of running, it came to absolutely normal levels. So now, it is time for run and fun.
Are you joining me for the next run?